Author Archives: Ciaran McGonagle

The PM is building a wall, and Northern Ireland is going to pay

Theresa May’s long awaited speech on Brexit was notable both for what she did say and, perhaps more conspicuously, for what she did not.

On Northern Ireland specifically, the Prime Minister declared that the maintenance of the Common Travel Area will be an important priority during the negotiation and that the UK will work to deliver a ‘practical solution’ so as to avoid a return to the borders of the past.

The practical solution posited by Mrs. May was subject to the caveat that the integrity of the UK’s immigration system must be protected. This, the Prime Minister suggests, is eminently achievable given that the CTA existed well before 1973 and the UK’s entry into the EEA.

This contrasts with remarks made immediately prior to the Referendum in June, when May claimed it would be “inconceivable” to imagine that there will not be any changes on border arrangements with the Republic of Ireland, if the UK were to pulls out of the EU.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 24 Comments

John Bolton as Trump’s Secretary of State?


News that John Bolton is being considered for the role of Secretary of State in President-elect Trump’s administration should give liberals, multi-lateralists, indeed anyone who values human rights and the rule of law, much cause for much concern.

As you may recall, John Bolton served as both Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security and, temporarily, as Permanent Representative to the United Nations under the Bush administration. His brief tenure at the United Nations was cut short as the 2006 Democratic mid-term sweep removed any realistic prospect that Bolton’s nomination would be confirmed.

With Republican majorities now in place for at least the next 2 years, it seems unlikely that Trump’s will encounter similar problems with his own appointments.

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Lessons for Syria on post-conflict reconstruction

As the war in Syria enters its 7th year, one wonders how this nation, so broken by almost a decade of internecine and global proxy warfare, might ever hope to emerge from the resultant chaos and destruction and become a functional society again. It is a process likely to take decades, if it is even achievable at all.

At some point, once some form of settlement is reached, the issue of justice and reconciliation among the various, warring groups must be addressed. As part of a multi-lateral, internationalist response to the atrocities committed by various actors, it is worth considering the role of international criminal justice.

Posted in Op-eds | 11 Comments

Brexit and the path to a written constitution

At the outset, I would like to make clear that, in writing this article, I am not lending my support to any argument that the EU referendum should be re-run or that the result should be overturned. In my view, any such argument is specious in the extreme, with its Liberal Democrat proponents appearing especially hypocritical. That the EU Referendum Bill received overwhelming support from all parties (the SNP excepted) is demonstrative of both the democratic inviolability of the outcome as well as the abject failure of Parliament to properly countenance the potential impact of an affirmative vote to leave the EU.

In presenting the question of the UK’s exit from the EU, a profound, multi-faceted and far-reaching change to the UK’s constitution, in such binary terms, the framers of the referendum question are arguably as responsible for much of uncertainty facing the nation as those on the Leave side who waged such a dishonest campaign. Indeed, the amorphous nature of the question posed unquestionably resulted in a vacuum in which the worst excesses of both sides were allowed to run wild, devoid of any common anchor to which voters could tie them. Loose talk of punishment budgets, hoards of Turkish immigrants descending upon our shores and overtly simplistic assertions on parliamentary sovereignty detracted from the very real and very significant constitutional resettlement that was being proposed. That such a complex and challenging endeavour should now be embarked upon following a relatively small and nationally disjointed majority is staggering.

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Too unpopular to fail?


In 2008, financial services firm Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States. With over $600 billion in assets, Lehman Brothers remains the largest bankruptcy filing in US history. Under-capitalised and enormously leveraged with significant holdings of risky mortgage-backed and residential property-related assets, despite weeks of intense negotiations with regulators and prospective buyers no viable solution could be found and Lehman was allowed to fail.

In the ensuing market chaos, and following a G20 meeting in London in early 2009, the Financial Stability Board was established to monitor the global financial system and coordinate financial regulation among the G20 nations. One of the Financial Stability Board’s key objectives was to end “too big to fail”, the idea that these huge, inter-connected financial institutions with balance sheets comparable to the GDP of small nations were too complex and not capable of failing without having adverse effects upon the broader global economy. As part of a package of measures, the G20 proposed and adopted rules that would ensure that all globally and systemically important financial institutions were required to hold more capital, to segregate riskier investment banking and trading businesses from retail banking operations and, significantly, that upon the failure of the institution, the bank’s creditors have their holdings written down or “bailed-in” in order to avoid future tax-payer funded bail-outs.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 23 Comments

Identity in post-Brexit Northern Ireland


In the run up to the EU referendum, former Prime Ministers John Major and Tony Blair visited Derry. With their deep understanding and appreciation for the nuances and sensitivities of Northern Irish conflict honed by their engagement with the topic for substantial periods of their respective premierships, they were both united in their bleak portrayal of a post-Brexit Northern Ireland.

During their trip, Major and Blair posed for photos on Derry’s Peace Bridge. Opened in Summer 2011, the Peace Bridge stands as an iconic focal point for the city’s cultural and artistic centre. Both a literal and symbolic bridge between the two communities (who have traditionally lived separately on either side of the River Foyle), the Peace Bridge stands as a testament to the ongoing success of the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Funded by approximately €20m of the overall €1.3 billion of funds invested in Northern Ireland by the EU since the early 90s, the project is one of many in the province which has benefited from EU funding. The objective of this programme (known as ‘PEACE’) is to provide financing for projects which aim to improve cohesion between communities involved in the conflict in Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland, with a specific focus on providing shared facilities for young people. A further PEACE programme was announced in early 2016 with a promise of continued EU assistance and financing of up to €230m. Following the results of the EU referendum, this programme and the related financing for projects in Northern Ireland is clearly now at risk.

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My vision of a liberal economy

By any objective measure Osbornomics has failed.

At best, the former Chancellor’s economic policies merely stalled the post-recession economic recovery. At worst, they have stunted growth, further entrenched economic inequality and exacerbated social division throughout the country. The Liberal Democrats can take some encouragement from the fact that, when in coalition, they were able to moderate the more insidious and ideologically-driven elements of Osborne’s economic doctrine. One must only look to the unmitigated disaster of the Chancellors post-election budget where, for example, he sought to slash disability benefits as one example of what unfettered Osbornomics may have looked like.

For decades however, under both Labour and Conservative governments, the UK has suffered from persistently high levels of both wealth and income inequality. Socially, politically and economically, the geographic divide between north and south has grown. The north-east of England has for years been ignored when it comes to public investment with almost 25 times as much spent on infrastructure per resident in London. Osborneís proposed Northern Powerhouse appears to have done little to mitigate the long-standing effects of decades of under-investment in both people and infrastructure.

In purely demographic terms, the wealth divide between the old and the young is growing exponentially due to the institutionalized, structural deficit in public spending on the young (e.g. education and training) versus the elderly (e.g. pensions and health care).

Posted in Op-eds | 20 Comments

Recent Comments

  • Alan Jelfs
    It's not a problem of planning. It is a problem of wealth inequality, where it is easier for some-one owning one home to afford two than it is for some-one ren...
  • David Langshaw
    Just a quick observation - there are a lot of "second homes" in London, although they probably don't often qualify as "holiday homes". Any legislation or other...
  • Michael BG
    Peter Martin, Thank you for letting me know that your second comment was rejected. Jenny Barnes, Indeed removing standing charges and having higher ra...
  • James Fowler
    @ Michael BG. Thank you for the calculations! It would be good to see the income tax threshold rise by something like that. Benefits should also rise rapidly. ...
  • Ruth Bright
    What a wonderful idea to show this film for such a cause. It is an unsparing watch....